EC lays out strategy for effective COVID vaccine rollout

Regulatory NewsRegulatory News | 16 October 2020 |  By 

The European Commission (EC) has set out key steps for effective strategies member states should use to deploy vaccines against COVID-19 when they become available.
In the face of rising numbers of coronavirus cases even in areas of Europe that weathered an earlier surge and had seen numbers subside, the strategies advocated by the EC for member states include first building capacity to deliver vaccines, said EC in a communication to the European Parliament and Council.
“With our vaccination strategy, we are helping EU countries prepare their vaccination campaigns: who should be vaccinated first, how to have a fair distribution and how to protect the most vulnerable, said ED President Ursula von der Leyen in a press announcement issued 15 October. “If we want our vaccination to be successful, we need to prepare now.” 
Specifically, member states must ensure they have a skilled health care workforce in place, backed by adequate supplies of medical and protective equipment to manage high volumes of vaccination.
States should also consider how different vaccines will need to be stored and transported. Two of the leading vaccine candidates being developed by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna are messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) vaccines that must be held at temperatures of -70C and -20C, respectively, raising questions of the resources required to achieve an end-to-end cold chain at such cold temperatures. Transport and storage considerations for these and other vaccines must also be worked into preparations, said EC.
Targeted populations for vaccination should have access that is both easy and affordable; also, member states should work to build public trust in the safety of vaccination by putting forward clear communication about the benefits and risks of vaccination, as well as the importance of vaccination for individual and public health.
“All member states will have access to COVID-19 vaccines at the same time on the basis of population size,” said EC in announcing the strategy document. During early deployment when vaccine supplies are limited, the communication from EC said, certain priority groups should be considered for early vaccination. The EC provided a list of the populations it feels should be considered for priority vaccination but made clear the populations were not ranked or presented in order of priority or need. The groups include:
  • healthcare and long-term care facility workers;
  • persons over 60 years of age;
  • persons whose state of health makes them particularly at risk;
  • essential workers;
  • persons who cannot socially distance;
  • more disadvantaged socio-economic groups.
Amid preparations for a vaccine, and in the absence of a cure or fully approved treatments, “the [European Union] must continue mitigating the transmission of the virus,” said EC. “This can be done through the protection of vulnerable groups and ensuring that citizens adhere to public health measures,” with non-pharmaceutical interventions likely remaining necessary for some time after a vaccine is introduced.
Stella Kyriakides, the EC’s commissioner for health and food safety, said, “It is with great concern that I am witnessing the increasingly rapid rise of infection rates all across the EU. Time is running out – everyone's first priority should be to do what it takes to avoid the devastating consequences of generalised lockdowns."
The communication again emphasized, as the EC has done throughout the pandemic, the importance of unity. “As Europe moves to the next stage of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is even more imperative that countries follow common vaccination strategies and approaches,” said the commission. Plans are in place for enhanced vaccine safety surveillance at the EU level, with the European Data Protection Board playing a key role in coordinating data protection across member states.
“And we must all prepare for the next steps. The vaccine will not be a silver bullet, but it will play a central role to save lives and contain the pandemic,” said Kyriakides. “And when and if a safe and efficient vaccine is found, we need to be prepared to roll it out as quickly as possible, including building citizens' trust in its safety and efficacy. Vaccines will not save lives – vaccinations will.”


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Tags: coronavirus, EU

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